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Mending Fences

In tough negotiations, an unexpected gift can often disarm and defrost the other side. But it’s also a wonderful tool, when delivered with sincerity, for repairing just about any uncomfortable situation.

Recently I sent out a flyer to one of the neighborhoods where I sell a lot of houses. I like to add a personal touch to my marketing materials, so I took an extra few hours to add a short handwritten note to each homeowner, using current title records to find their names.

A few days later I got a call from a woman who had received the flyer. Her voice trembled with emotion as she told me how angry my personal note had made her because it was addressed to both herself and her husband, who had passed away over a year ago. I apologized and tried to explain my error but there was no answer. The woman had already hung up.

I felt bad.

We are all sensitive to different things and there was no doubt I had hit a nerve, not only offending this woman but also reminding her of something she was still struggling with, perhaps the reason she had not updated her title records.

So the next day I bought a dozen yellow roses and knocked on her door. When the woman answered, I introduced myself and said I had come to apologize in person for any distress I had caused her. I meant it. And the woman was clearly taken aback. But she seemed to appreciate my gesture and took the flowers with a nod of thanks before closing her door.

A few months later, I met with some homeowners across the street which made me think of the woman again. Something prompted me to look up her title records which now showed her as the sole owner of the property. The name of her deceased husband, who she had obviously loved very much, was no longer there.